Mark Winkler: lowercase

On Joshua Redman's "lowercase," Mark Winkler demonstrates his smooth and undulating vocal style. He sings the self-penned lyrics in perfect cadence with the song's musical meter. With a tip of his hat to vocalist and apparent inspiration Mark Murphy, who wrote the liner notes in true hipster style, Winkler is at once derivative yet original. Much like Murphy, he chooses challenging and unique material, with lyrics that bring a sly smile to your face for somehow being in the know. As an educator, he has taught songwriting classes at UCLA; so it's no surprise that he has a way with fitting just the right words to compelling music. His nonchalant delivery is deceptive because of the ease with which he modulates his voice. The musicians are first-rate, and complement his lead with understated elegance and impeccable time. Bob Sheppard is particularly effective with his fine tenor work that feeds off Winkler's vocal direction. After solos by pianist Jamieson Trotter and Sheppard, we return to the melody before the tune closes with a repeating refrain from Trotter that fades into a rolling drum solo by Steve Hass. This is vocal jazz at its best.

February 04, 2009 · 0 comments

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Mark Winkler: Cool

With the smooth swagger of Gene Kelly dancing through the wet streets in Singin' in the Rain, Mark Winkler exercises his lyrical and vocal chops on "Cool." He is joined in duet by an icy-hot Cheryl Bentyne trading lines to this decidedly chilled piece of "hip" music. With the snap of his fingers to the time of the laid-back beat, and Dan Lutz's smoky basslines coming up the rear, Winkler slyly makes reference to (Henry) Mancini and (Chet) Baker in his lyrics as examples of cool. With the wink of someone in the know, saxophonist Bob Sheppard takes the clue and interjects a line from the Mancini Pink Panther songbook to punctuate the matter. A nice bass solo by Lutz leads into a Getzian-cool tenor solo by Sheppard that accentuates the mood of unabashed indifference yet somehow still cooks. Bentyne does some fine vocalizing at the end, showing her range. Winkler plays creatively with the whole concept of what is cool and what is not, and creates a very enjoyable piece of music. Mark Winkler, to take a line from your lyrics, "You're swimming-pool cool."

February 04, 2009 · 0 comments

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Andrew Hill: Monkash

This recording, which adds a string quartet to the conventional tenor-and-trio jazz combo, did not surface in stores until 2005, when producer Michael Cuscuna completed his campaign to release all of the unissued Andrew Hill sessions in the Blue Note Records archives. Like many of Hill's late-'60s compositions, “Monkash” -- named for a doctor friend -- blends groove with gravity. Garnett and Davis state the funky yet formal melody, while Waits tensely flits at the high-hat, threatening to drop a backbeat but never kicking it in. The strings surge and trill, dropping out only for Hill's solo, the centerpiece. A thoughtful, dramatic arrangement.

October 19, 2007 · 0 comments

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